It was a very strange day for Minnesota Vikings' defensive end Jim Marshall on Oct. 25, 1964.
At first, one of the mainstays of the Purple People Eaters defense was having a good day as he forced 49er quarterback George Mira to put the ball on the ground in the fourth quarter leading to a Carl Eller fumble recovery for a touchdown, giving the Vikings a 27-17 lead against the San Francisco 49ers at old Kezar Stadium.
With 8:12 left in the game, Mira completed a pass to Billy Kilmer over the middle who fumbled the ball when numerous Viking defenders closed in on his position.
Marshall's eyes widened when he saw the bouncing football and nothing but daylight. He picked the pigskin up and proceeded to run 66 yards as the San Francisco crowd cheered hysterically.
Fran Tarkenton furiously yelled as he ran but when the defensive end finally got to the end zone, the confused Marshall threw the football to his quarterback, thinking he scored a Minnesota touchdown.
"I picked it up and took off running," Marshall recalled in Sports Illustrated. "Everyone was waving and shouting, but I thought they were cheering me on."
San Francisco center Bruce Bosley was the first person to reach Marshall after he scored a two point safety for the 49ers cutting the score to 27-19.
"I told Jim, thanks a lot," Bosley said in The Football Hall of Shame 2. "He just looked at me like I was off my rocker and said, huh?"
"Then he looked up in the stands and then at the sidelines with a strange look in his eye. I don't think it was until he had walked 20 yards that he knew what really happened."
Finally, Tarkenton caught up with the embarrassed Marshall and exclaimed "Jim, you went the wrong way!"
"What alerted me that something was wrong was the noise," Marshall said in Sports Illustrated. "I had never heard a crowd react that way."
Short tempered head coach Norm Van Brocklin chose not to berate Marshall, slapped him on the back side then told his mortified player to "Go back in there and make the fans forget."
The Minnesota Vikings defeated the San Francisco 49ers 27-22 that day but this contest will forever be remembered for Jim Marshall's 66-yard wrong way run.